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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping new history of how climate change and disease helped bring down the Roman Empire

Here is the monumental retelling of one of the most consequential chapters of human history: the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome's power - a story of nature's triumph over human ambition.

Interweaving a grand historical narrative with cutting-edge climate science and genetic discoveries, Kyle Harper traces how the fate of Rome was decided not just by emperors, soldiers, and barbarians but also by volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, climate instability, and devastating viruses and bacteria. He takes listeners from Rome's pinnacle in the second century, when the empire seemed an invincible superpower, to its unraveling by the seventh century, when Rome was politically fragmented and materially depleted. Harper describes how the Romans were resilient in the face of enormous environmental stress, until the besieged empire could no longer withstand the combined challenges of a "little ice age" and recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague.

A poignant reflection on humanity's intimate relationship with the environment, The Fate of Rome provides a sweeping account of how one of history's greatest civilizations encountered, endured, yet ultimately succumbed to the cumulative burden of nature's violence. The example of Rome is a timely reminder that climate change and germ evolution have shaped the world we inhabit - in ways that are surprising and profound.

Author bio: Kyle Harper is professor of classics and letters and senior vice president and provost at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425 and From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

©2017 Princeton University Press (P)2017 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling History

Does an excellent job with showing the power of scientific sources for history. Full disclosure, I do have a fascination with epidemic history, so not completely unbiased. A very interesting take on the decline of the Roman empire.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent meld of History & Science

As Diamond did in Guns germs & Steel, Harper makes a great case for the deep influence of environment in the course of history. We are all familiar with the stories of the Roman Republic & empires as told by men writing things down. But the larger view of that history in the context of climate change and disease evolution suddenly makes a lot sense. Many Aha! moments. I trust this work will be reinforced and expanded by others on the trail of history synthesis.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Compelling Thesis & Cutting Edge Methods - 1 Flaw

Would you try another book from Kyle Harper and/or Andrew Garman?

Yes

Who was your favorite character and why?

Its nonfiction so not really applicable.

What does Andrew Garman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Makes it possible to 'read' as I drive.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

This is the type of book that NEEDS to have the endnotes available as a PDF. I took off 2 stars for this omission.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Author Constantly Shows Stupidity

Hard to understand because the author wrote with a thesaurus in hand. It is a poorly told history of the fall of Rome, with some discussion about plagues and a poor argument about climate change. The reader doesn't know the difference between climatic and climactic. An awful book.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful